Supporting Schools & Parishes
Be encouraged and inspired - share your story of God's work among children and their families in your community.
Whether traditional or modern, small or large, your parish's stories of work with children will encourage others!
Send your stories to be included here: email@example.com
Bubbles- a toddler group with a difference!
There has been a pre school group meeting at the Parish Church in Willingham for a very long time. It has undergone various names changes and formats over the years, each meeting the needs of families in an every changing community. The group has always been run in an ecumenical way, with leaders from the different churches in Willingham. In the last few years, the group has grown from about ten regular children, to about thirty attending each week with their mum, dad, granny, grandad or carer.
Currently it is called ‘Bubbles’. This is because… well you guessed it… we have ‘Bubbles’ every week! We have a very simple format free play and craft, followed by group singing, a game, story or prayer, BUBBLES, and then a blessing song. We end with refreshments provided by a lovely team of ladies. Each week we have a Christian theme, often based on the fantastic Scripture Union series called Tiddlywinks! So we have done series on ‘Friends of Jesus’, Creation, ‘Our senses’, ‘Stories Jesus told’, People in the Old Testament and so on. More recently we have branched out a bit, and did a series on the Fruit of the Spirit, and we are now doing the 10 commandments!
The craft is always linked to the theme, and in the group time the songs are nursery rhyme tunes with words about Jesus. e.g. Jingle Bells is about Jesus as our friend, Twinkle Twinkle is about loving each other like Jesus…We find that using familiar tunes helps the grown ups to join in! We also have a theme tune for Bubbles about meeting Jesus and God’s family each Friday ( to the tune of Mulberry Bush!). The prayer or story is always short. The average child in the group is about two years old, so stories often involve dressing up or holding props. We have a prayer book that we draw pictures in. Some times we make a display- like a tree showing all the fruit of the Spirit.
In the last couple of years we have tried to think more about building relationships with families, and linked with other toddler/baby groups at other churches in the village. We have held an annual ‘low bang’ firework party, and also pancake parties. This year we plan to hold a ‘Light Party’ at the end of October. We have also held a summer BBQ for the whole family in June in our garden! Two years ago we created something called the ‘Advent Journey’ that was passed round families in Bubbles during this time of year. This was a large bag containing a nativity set, books, candle, camera, reflections book and so on all about Christmas. It was so popular that last year we had to have two! Each family on the list was prayed for faithfully by members of the churches. Some amazing comments were made about how special it was, and how good it was to be reminded of the real meaning of Christmas at this busy time.
Last year we held a ‘Mums Night’ just before Mother’s Day. This included food and entertainment, as well as an introduction to a parenting course. We then ran two parenting courses as a result. This year Julia Chamberlin came as the after dinner speaker, and many mums were very inspired by her words of wisdom! The toddler group leaders also entertained with our very own version of Mama Mia!
Its amazing where a toddler group can lead…! Yes it takes time to prepare, and sometimes everyone goes home exhausted…but every time someone says ‘there is something different about this group’ (which they do!) you know it has been worth it!
If you would like to know more about Bubbles please talk to Julia. We welcome visitors at any time to see what we do!
Thanks to Kathryn Wright for sending us their story of how working with Under 5's and their families can be so fruitful.
Wisbech Lynn Marshland Deanery makes music!
Read about Wisbech’s newest and brightest children’s & youth choirs and how they have reached their community.
The choirs are part of an exciting outreach project based at St Augustine’s Church, Wisbech, to benefit children, young adults and their families in their local community.
Breakout! caters for all ages, all musical tastes and everyone is welcome - there is no entrance audition to join.
The choirs have a Christian ethos, and aim to develop each singer individually, encouraging a high standard of choral singing while making regular contributions to services and performances both in the local community and further afield. As importantly, they place a strong emphasis on having fun, making new friends, including their families and enjoying ‘team building’ days out.
Breakout! began in the summer of 2008 and already has a committed bunch of around 50 children, plus an active parent’s committee. Work is forging ahead with fundraising and searching for grant aid to make it possible for the choirs to continue.
Charlotte also offers choir members the opportunity, to work at their own pace, through a series of graded medals in the RSCM “Voice for Life” scheme, a nationally recognised qualification in singing.
Breakout was founded and directed by Charlotte Hill BMus(hons), MMus. Charlotte is an examiner for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music as well as lecturing in Music Education at Homerton College, Cambridge University.
If you have any questions or would like to find out more do contact Charlotte.
The parish of Buckden, in the Deanery of St Neots asked...
Are we keeping our promise?
Can we spare a Granny?
Is Sunday morning the best time for families to come to church?
I arrived as incumbent in my current parishes just over two years ago, and almost immediately was approached by 20 families wanting baptism – there had only been 6 baptisms during the 15 month interregnum!
As I met with these families and we looked at the baptism liturgy together, it became clear to me that the church wasn’t keeping its promise to welcome and uphold the children in their new life in Christ.
There was already a junior church every week, but that wasn’t really something that would meet the needs of families with children younger than school age, and it also didn’t really meet the needs of families who were very new to the idea of church.
And if the church wasn’t keeping its promise to welcome and uphold, then the families themselves stood a much lower chance of keeping their promises to draw their children by their example into the community of faith, and to help them take their place within the life and worship of Christ’s church.
So I started asking the families what sort of thing they would like the church to be offering, getting them to imagine what sort of church would enable them to do what they would be promising to do.
Several things emerged:- Families noted that Sunday mornings weren’t the best time, especially in a village like mine where there is so much sport going on. Sunday afternoons would be a time when more families were available.
- The Sunday tea time slot is often a hard one to fill – people are tired, you’ve done what you were going to do during the day, but need to fill that tricky hour before tea time.
- There isn’t all that much that families can do together – so something that involved the whole family would go down well.
In the meantime, we started something called the ‘spare granny scheme’ which matched up baptism families with CRB checked mature members of the congregation who would support them before the baptism, sit with them during it, and keep in touch afterwards.
Also in the meantime I started an informal mums and tots group at the vicarage, called ‘Tea, chat and toys’. It now meets weekly after school on a Friday, some of the tots have now started school! We get up to 18 children coming along to that. This has no formal religious content, but conversation does stray into the big issues of life.
It’s advertised in the village magazine, and to all baptism families, and about one third to half of those who come are from within the church regular congregation. It was this group that I got to help me plan a service along the lines that my market research had suggested would go down well. One of the mums who came to Tea chat and toys turned out to be a music for little people teacher, and was extremely helpful in guiding me on the format of the service.
These are the parameters that we came up with:
We thought about the needs of young families, in terms of the time and length and content of the service, and in having enough people there to welcome and host the service. Many of the spare grannies come along to this service, and chat to families before and after. Some of these spare granny relationships have really taken off and become real friendships.
2. Repetition and ritual.
We wanted the service to have some traditions that were just for this, and were repeated each time. We called the service Stepping Stones, and used the stones theme as a gathering ritual.
When each person arrives, they collect a stone with their name on (their first time they get to choose their stone!) and take it with them.
We sit in a circle in the chancel, with the parents sitting behind their children.
The first thing we do as we gather is to sing ‘He’s got the whole world in his hands’, and there is a verse for each pair of children, going round the room. When your name is sung, you come and put your stone in the basket. There is a verse for parents, and a verse for everyone else.
We then light the candle, and sing a responsorial action version of Christ be with me. We have thus gathered ourselves together with each other and with God.
The service follows a pattern of gathering, teaching ‘what’s in the story box today?’ a bible story brought to life by puppets, actions, imagining, sound effects etc), creative response (which I’ll talk about in a minute), and prayers.
At the end of the service we have a similarly set pattern of songs and actions to send us out, including a blessing song: Say goodbye.
3. Sacramentality, not craft activity...
I’ve always had an aversion to ‘illustrations’, and wanted the creative element to the service to be more sacramental than illustrative, more process orientated than results orientated. After the main story there is always a little reflection on the sorts of themes that can be drawn out of the story. Each session has a theme, rather than just having a story, eg ‘Journey’s (where the story was Abraham) or ‘gifts’ (where the story was the wise men). This reflection has something in it for the parents and for the children.
We then make something: there are always two things to make – one individual thing to take home, and one thing that we all make together and leave in church. It’s hard to explain what I mean by these being sacramental rather than illustrative, so I’ll give some examples:
- Amazing me – decorating mirror frames to use in prayer.
- Gifts – decorating gift box to put all the ‘God stuff’ in at home
- Forgiveness (the Prodigal Son) – cutting up ribbons to make bows out of them, and a welcome banner
- The storm – decorating prayer pillow cases, and one big prayer pillow.
There’s always a treasure box for the smallest babies – though even they can make marks with pens on fabric, and have their hands and feet drawn round.
4. Ongoing impact
We wanted to do something that wouldn’t just be for that hour a month. The mum who teaches music for little people suggested a homework sheet, and giving every family a folder to keep their sheets in. Each family (or each child) gets a take home sheet, which summarises the story or the theme, has an activity page (a maze, a picture to colour, etc), a suggestion for an action to take as a family, and a suggestion for prayer, and a blank page at the back where they can write down questions or ideas that have come to them during the month. I know that at least some of the families do use these sheets!